Putin won’t hinder Olympic athletes
The Russian president says his country’s athletes are free to compete in 2018 under a neutral flag
Vladimir Putin, fresh on the heels of the widely anticipated announcement that he’ll seek a fourth term as president, said that Russia won’t stop its athletes from competing under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics after the national team was banned from the Games.
“Without any doubt, we won’t put up any barrier and won’t prevent our athletes from participating if they want to compete as individuals,” Putin said Wednesday in Nizhny Novgorod. Many of the athletes “have prepared all their lives for this competition,” and officials will have to study the details of the International Olympic Committee’s decision on Russia, he said.
The IOC ruled on Tuesday that there’d been “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia,” in what President Thomas Bach called “an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games.” It suspended the Russian Olympic Committee and banned the national team from the February 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The IOC said only individual athletes who’ve never violated anti-doping rules will be allowed to compete and without the Russian flag or national anthem.
The ban is part of “an effort to force Russia out of major sport” using “unfounded accusations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow.
The U.S. is trying to put pressure on international sporting bodies “which has nothing in common with the ideology of the Olympic movement,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, the Tass news service reported.
While the Kremlin denies the existence of any state-run doping program, Putin appeared to soften criticism of the investigation. Russia’s “partly to blame” for the situation it’s in, though the Olympic ruling was still “politically motivated,” he said, according to the Interfax news service.
IOC president Thomas Bach spoke during a media conference Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland, a day after the IOC banned the Russian team from the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics.